Panafrican News Agency

Tanzanian referee Kayoko dreams of global heights (A CAF Portrait)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - Just like every little boy growing up in the hood, Ramadhan Kayoko always dreamt of becoming a professional footballer.

Kicking about every thing here and there built the desire for the passion he has longed for - playing the beautiful game as a top flight professional.

Sadly, Kayoko was prone to injuries and his development from an early age was curtailed by several stoppages to his career.

And when it became apparent that the injuries had taken its toll, the 26-year old decided to take another route to realize his dream of being in football at the top flight. He decided to try out refereeing.

"As a young referee, the road was always not so smooth. But I have never given up and I continued to work hard to improve myself," Kayoko said.

“Football was still part of my life, I decided to try out at refereeing because I saw many youngsters going along that line,” Kayoko explains.

He said he first started off as a ball-boy and soon enough, he switched to the whistle at the tender age of 14.

“In 2008, there was a refereeing programme for young kids and I decided to try it out. In 2013, I was promoted to a second-class referee and three years later, I got promotion to the first class. I became eligible to officiate in the First Division and last year, I finally managed to become a top flight referee,” the budding Kayoko explains.

"My journey", he says, "from a stalled dream of playing football professionally to blowing the whistle hasn’t been easy," but noted that his "football passion and desire to make it to the very top has been the driving force.

“There have been many challenges. As a young referee, the road was always not so smooth. But I have never given up and I continue to work hard to improve myself,” says Kayoko.

His light shone even brighter a few weeks ago when he was selected to officiate the Simba vs Yanga derby in the semi-finals of the Tanzanian FA Cup, becoming the youngest ever referee to arbitrate the electric Kariokoo Derby.

Kayoko, who is marking his debut season in the Tanzanian top flight beat the record previously held by Elly Sasii who officiated the tie at the age of 27 in 2017. In the previous year, Jonesia Rukia had also officiated the derby at the same age.

His character, confidence and control of the game came in superb and one could hardly tell that it was his first time to officiate a match of such magnitude.

“At first I was nervous because it was my first big game and at such an age. However, I got the courage to face it. The pressure was there but I managed to calm down,” Kayoko explained.

Getting picked for such kind of a game, in his maiden season in the Tanzanian top flight, came as a pleasant surprise, but a challenge he relished from the word go.

“It was such a huge surprise for me. I really prayed for things to go okay and I am happy that my colleagues gave me the strength and encouragement to face it. On our way to the stadium with my colleagues, we came singing and dancing to calm the pressure,” explains the 26-year old, grinning a smile of satisfaction on his face.

For him to be selected to arbitrate such a highly charged match, Kayoko merited the pick. He had impressed in all the matches he had officiated, including Simba’s quarter final against Azam. It was no surprise he was handed another tough match.

“It is common that this derby is officiated by FIFA referees but this time around most of them were not doing enough. Jonesia (Rukia) doesn't have match fitness because she underwent surgery few weeks ago,” Soud Abdi, the Tanzanian Football Federation (TFF) Referee’s Committee chair, said.

“We don’t look at the face or age of someone to officiate such a match. We look at his or her quality. In the past few weeks, Kayoko was doing very well and deserved the appointment.”

"I want to continue learning and becoming better and eventually getting CAF and FIFA certification", he said.

Officiating the match has now given Kayoko more confidence to move forward with his short-term dream being earning CAF and FIFA certification to allow him officiate continental and global matches, with his eyes pegged on the Africa Cup of Nations in the near future.

“I want to continue learning and becoming better and eventually getting CAF and FIFA certification. I don’t want to feel proud because I officiated the derby or people are saying good things about me. I know there are challenges ahead but I will work hard to keep beating them and becoming better,” he adds.

“I feel like it is a good start to my career. This is my first season in the Tanzania Premier League and I have picked several lessons from all the matches. I will keep learning and build my experience to become a better referee."

As he waits for his dream to grow even bigger, he says he will keep working hard and ensuring he stays physically fit, awaiting an opportune time to have a go at scaling his career higher outside the borders of Tanzania.

-0- PANA VAO 5Aug2020